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Visit Johannesburg's Origins Centre to see Bev Butkow's latest masterpieces

Witness woven artworks by Bev Butkow in her solo exhibition re-weaving m/other, from 20 August until 30 September.

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By Kimberley Schoeman  | August 9, 2023 | Art

Johannesburg-based artist Bev Butkow is bringing her woven works to the Wits University’s Origin Centre from 20 August until 30 September 2023. Her solo exhibition, re-weaving m/other, showcases the rhythm of weaving and feminine energy.

“While much of my previous work has been about a process of unravelling, un-becoming and re-becoming, this body of work activates an immense feminine power. It celebrates and relishes an intense mothering, nurturing, caring spirit that comes through in the work,” says Butkow.

“beneath our threshold of awareness”, 2022, thread, wool, string, copper rod, Bev Butkow with Thandiswa Maxinyane & Danily Hunga. Image: supplied.

In re-weaving m/other, Butkow explores themes such as the body and art, a material uprising, the value of women’s labour, the traces they leave and the impact they make. Together, the works serve to provoke, question, and re-frame how women exist in the world as individuals, in community, and in relation to all other living beings.

Taking care

To produce her woven works, Butkow’s practice is collaborative, meditative, and materialistically mindful. It is clear that Butkow and her materials work together instead of making the materials work for her. Materials like dressmaking scraps, artificial pearls, beads, textile offcuts, plastic jewels, masking tape and other mass-produced, synthetic items form the abstracted woven, stitched, printed, painted and mixed media works.

Despite using scrap materials, Butkow’s works are anything but scrappy. Instead, they are gentle and playful, while articulating the main themes of the exhibition through skilful weaving, historically done by women.

This body of work is particularly interested in “what happens when the mode of caring that defines women and motherhood, — a contradictory pull between nurturing and extending, — turns into a creative methodology that guides my way of working in my studio?” explains Butkow. “Mobilising the immense power of mothering, nurturing, and care in the studio has allowed the materials to speak, and to reach their full potential.”

Details in “beneath our threshold of awareness”, 2022, thread, wool, string, copper, rod, Bev Butkow made with Thandiswa Maxinyane and Danily Hunga. Images: supplied

Represented by Guns & Rain, a female-led Johannesburg-based gallery for contemporary African art, it is clear that Butkow’s woven artworks are in good hands.

The different weaving patterns create networks raise questions around collective knowledge of women, co-existence, materiality, excess, women’s labour, and how one leaves their legacy in this world.

“Underlying my making process is a deep awareness of responsibilities that come with making material objects,” explains Butkow. “What ethical, moral and material responsibilities do I have to the traces that I leave? How do I walk upon this Earth?”

“Of generations past, and future”, 2023. Thread, dressmaking scraps, copper rod, Bev Butkow with Thandiswa Maxinyane. Image: supplied.

With both the the nature of Butkow’s exhibition and its location at the Origins Centre — a space for studying the origins of humankind through the lens of creativity to spotlight our impact on the world — physicality also becomes an essential part of the exhibition. Through a mixture of wall-based works, installation, and projection, re-weaving m/other invites viewers to actively engage with its tactility, physicality, and immersive, meditative qualities.